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Ogdensburg City Council receives city manager list, to interview this weekend

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OGDENSBURG — The city has a slate of presumptive finalists for the vacant city manager position, but its hire might not even come from that list.

The City Council has received a list of four preferred candidates for the position, but members are not saying who is on the list.

“Yes, we have the list, but I’m not going to discuss anything to do with the list of candidates,” Mayor William D. Nelson said.

On Tuesday, the Bonadio Group, the Syracuse firm hired to recruit a new city manager, shared its short list with council members.

“We have a list of those coming for an interview,” Councilor William D. Hosmer said. “We only have the list of who the Bonadio Group considers the top candidates.”

The council will meet behind closed doors tonight to discuss the candidates and will interview them through the weekend.

Council members have asked for a full list of 26 applicants for the position, but have not yet received the larger roster.

“It is my understanding that later this week we’re getting a bigger list of candidates,” Councilor Wayne L. Ashley said. “We’re using this term ‘candidates’; my interpretation means a full list of everybody that applied. That is what I am expecting.”

Mr. Ashley said he would like to interview any qualified local candidates on the list.

“I am going to take the entire list, and if I feel there are local candidates that meet the qualifications, I’m going to say they are entitled to an interview,” Mr. Ashley said.

Last week, council members complained that the schedule set by the Bonadio group to meet, interview and select candidates was too aggressive.

Originally, the council was expected to interview candidates Saturday, narrow the list to finalists on Sunday and make a decision Monday.

“The Bonadio group is a very well-known and respected group and they’ve done this before, so we do have to trust in their recommendations,” Councilor Jennifer Stevenson said.

While the interviews still will take place, council members are in no hurry to make their final selection.

This week, the council began the process of amending Ogdensburg’s charter, identifying sections that need to be changed before the new manager is hired.

Section C-18 of the charter calls for the city manager to serve an indefinite term.

“We need to change the wording from indefinite term to something else,” Councilor R. Storm Cilley said. “In January, we had no end in sight — we either had to continue this forever or spend a lot of money to end it.”

In January, the council had difficulty firing City Manager Arthur J. Sciorra because of provisions in the charter and his contract that mandated he serve an indefinite term and limited the causes for firing.

“What got us in trouble was provisions in the contract that weren’t in the charter,” Mr. Cilley said.

City attorney Andrew W. Silver called for a measured approach to updating the charter.

“We’ll take a look and identify all the provisions that have to be changed,” Mr. Silver said. “I think the only one is C-18.”

The council could vote on an amendment as soon as its Aug. 13 meeting. After any changes are proposed, a public hearing must be held before the revisions are voted into law.

“This isn’t something we can sit on,” Councilor William D. Hosmer said. “If we start our interviews this weekend, we’re going to be in contract negotiations within a month.”

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